Women Need to Say 'No' More
After reading about the self-defense exercise, I jumped up to go find my husband. He was upstairs in a steamy bathroom, shaving his head. "Hit on me for a full minute with yes or no questions," I commanded.
He dipped the razor in the sink. "Will you help me shave my head?"
"Maybe later. But first you have to hit on me for a whole minute."
"That was my first question."
I objected. "What kind of nutter would ask a strange woman to help shave his head?"
My husband grinned. There was a blob of shaving cream on his eyebrow. "Hey, lady, whaddaya say we get busy with some minty eucalyptus foam? It could happen."
I gave him my best Terminator stare. "I'm setting my watch. Start over."
"You want some popcorn?"
"Can I buy you a towel?"
No, no, no, no—I said it over and over, with gathering emphasis, with rising rhetorical thunder, like Daniel Webster. So vociferously did I decline that I was sure no foamy masher would ever mess with me. When the minute was up, my husband congratulated me on my firm boundaries. Then I went downstairs, because by then I really wanted some popcorn.
God has a nice sense of timing. If you start working on a weakness, you can pretty much count on an immediate opportunity to practice what you're working on. The very next day I found myself in crisis mode. Mind you, my crisis did not involve carjackers or assault rifles. But it tore me up inside. Saying no would inflict hurt. It did. But that's not the point. The point is that I finally said no after five hours of worry and fear.
As I tried to screw my courage to the sticking point, I kept replaying a moment from the church nursery the previous Sunday. My husband was reposing in a glider rocking chair, a chunky baby in each arm. The director popped in and asked if we would work the following evening, for a function we both wanted to attend. My husband didn't miss a beat. "No." He didn't convey regrets. He didn't look apologetic. He didn't say another word, unless you count, "Dude, did you just spit up on me?"
Such a small moment. What feminist wouldn't note it? I knew all along what I would have to say. Yet thinking about gender constructs didn't help me much. In the end what helped was this. We all have a divine assignment—a skillset, a calling, a pearl of great price. Unless we learn to say no, we wobble off course, too busy or distracted to complete God's assignment on our lives.